Oliver Giroud and his unique role as the non-scoring striker…
1 months ago, 18 Oct 09:50
In April, when he was chasing down Mohamed Salah for the Premier League’s Golden Boot award, Harry Kane was asked what drove him forward in that pursuit. “Your job as a striker is to score goals,” Kane told Sky Sports. “I know I do other stuff like hold the ball up, try and bring other people into play and work hard, but my job is to score goals.”
Kane’s view is not outlandish. We have awards for strikers at every major tournament and in every domestic league according to the number of goals they score, and the number of goals scored is typically used to compare and contrast forwards. In that environment, of course scoring goals is prioritised. Speak to any young child who plays up front for their local team, and it is the goals they will excitedly tell you about. Goals are not the sole barometer of a striker’s quality, but they hold the most sway. Goals, goals, goals.
Olivier Giroud’s last club goal was on May 6. Since then, he has played 11 Chelsea matches without scoring. Take the long-term view: Giroud has seven goals in his last 37 Premier League games, stretching back to May 2016.
Last month, Giroud scored for France against Netherlands in the UEFA Nations League to end a run of ten international games without a goal. During his 546 minutes at the 2018 World Cup, Giroud did not score. There were 247 players who had at least one shot on target during that tournament. Astonishingly, the starting centre forward for the victors was not one.
By any normal standards, this would be a disaster. There would be calls for Giroud to be left out of the starting XI for club and country, his ability questioned. After all, Giroud is no stranger to a goal drought. In May 2016, he eventually ended a 15-match dry spell at Arsenal and 18 months later was sold by the club. That Giroud was allowed to join a top-four rival for a relatively modest fee suggests that Arsenal had lost patience with his goalscoring record.
But here’s the thing: As Giroud’s goalless run has continued over the last six months, his importance for club and country has increased. Not only has he lost just one of the last 29 matches he has played for Chelsea and France, but Giroud has actually improved both teams. He is an almost unique entity at the highest level: the successful non-scoring striker.
Under Maurizio Sarri, Giroud has been given an elixir. With Eden Hazard told that he should stay in the final third rather than helping out defensively, the Belgian is able to spend far more time closer to goal and thus closer to his centre forward. In those circumstances – and given Hazard’s form – Sarri does not need a striker who concentrates mostly on scoring goals. He needs a facilitator.
Our typical expectations have been turned upside down: a centre forward plays the supporting role for a wide forward. Hazard has taken shots ...
Category: sports football